Drug search and seizure laws are violated a lot more often than law enforcement would like us to believe. Do you suspect you may have been a victim of an illegal search and seizure?
Knowing Missouri’s search and seizure laws is essential if you want to protect your privacy and right to due process.
Search and Seizure Laws: 3 Questions to Help You Find Out If a Drug Search Was Legal
So, the police searched your home, inspected your car during a traffic stop, or gave you a pat-down. Was any of that legal, and what can you do about it? The answer will largely depend on your response to the following questions.
1. Did the Police Have a Valid Warrant?
Generally, law enforcement agents need a warrant to enter and search your property or vehicle.
Search warrants are issued and signed by a judge and must specify the property and persons to be searched, as well as any items to be seized. If a warrant says the police can search your bathroom, they cannot search any other parts of your house.
However, there are certain exceptions when the police may carry out a search and seize without a warrant. These include:
- Emergencies, such as when pursuing a suspect or there is a reason to believe that evidence may be destroyed.
- Searches related to an arrest. If the police have just arrested someone, they may search that person and their immediate surroundings for evidence incident to the arrest.
- Plain view. No warrant is required to search and seize items in plain view and in a place where the police are authorized to be present.
2. Was the Search Reasonable?
The Fourth Amendment protects all U.S. citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures. Two things determine if a search was unreasonable.
The first is whether you could legitimately expect a degree of privacy. You have a right to privacy in your home, your car, and with respect to your personal belongings.
The second factor to consider is whether the police had probable cause. That means they must have a reasonable belief that the place they want to search was the scene of a crime or may contain evidence of a crime.
3. Did You Consent to the Search?
If an officer asks to search you, your property, or your car, you have the right to say no if they do not have a warrant.
However – and this is crucial – if you consent to the search, the police may carry out a search and seizure even without a warrant.
If you live with a roommate or have a landlord, they can only consent to a search of the common areas, such as the kitchen or a shared bathroom, but not your room.
Do You Find Search and Seizure Laws Confusing?
They certainly are. There are many exceptions to the rules above. For instance, in 2009, the Supreme Court ruled that the police may search your vehicle in certain situations.
To find out if you were the victim of an illegal search and seizure, contact the Law Office of Michael R. Taylor today.